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Qatari television Al Jazeera is anxious over the legal steps and pressures they are facing in Bangladesh over the much talked about documentary titled “All the Prime Minister’s Men”, producer of the documentary Will Thorne said while speaking with BBC Bangla.

BBC Bangla’s Masud Hasan Khan talked with producer and they published a report in BBC Bangla online on 21 February.

After being aired on 1 February, the documentary created much buzz in the social media, news media and the political arena of Bangladesh.

BBC Bangla report, first part: Why is Al-Jazeera anxious?

Thorne said legal action against those who contributed to the documentary have worried them. He said, “Action is being taken against those who contributed. The allegations brought about are serious. The important thing here is freedom of press. It’s a dangerous effort to legally challenge the revelations brought out by the investigation.”

A sedition case was filed against four persons involved with the documentary on 17 February and the Dhaka court has fixed 23 February to pronounce its order on the complaint.

Now freedom of press is being muzzled as (the authorities) fail to find any effective rebuttal against the allegations brought out in the investigation
Will Thorne

The four accused in the case are British journalist David Bergman, Sweden-based Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, Al Jazeera television director general Mostefa Souag and Hungary-based entrepreneur Zulkarnain Saer Khan alias Sami.

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Will Thorne said they are also anxious about safety of the families of the people concerned.

“Now freedom of press is being muzzled as (the authorities) fail to find any effective rebuttal against the allegations brought out in the investigation,” Thorne said.

The around one-hour long documentary has shown various activities of army chief General Aziz Ahmed and his three brothers. The brothers of Aziz Ahmed were convicted in a murder case in 2004.

Granted clemency in 2019

Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) directorate on 15 February issued a statement revealed that Anis Ahmed and Haris Ahmed were granted government clemency following proper legal steps. A Prothom Alo report on 16 February said home ministry issued a notification on 28 March, 2019 regarding the duo’s pardon.

The army chief on the same day said he met his brothers after they were exonerated from the murder case.

Meanwhile, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said the government will take legal action against Al Jazeera.

Why the brothers were shown fugitive

Army chief in his defence said the government had already granted clemency to his brothers by the time he met them.

Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan also weighed in saying the brothers were granted pardon through proper legal process.

Answering the question as to why the Al Jazeera documentary then depicted the brothers as fugitive, Will Thorne said, “Look at the timeline. You’ve to look at 2014-15. We had clear evidence that general Aziz Ahmed used serving BGB officials to obtained fake passports (for the brothers).”

General Aziz helped his brothers obtain fake passports and travel to Europe. The wealth they amassed was possible because their brother is the chief of Bangladesh army
Will Thorne

Thorne said, “His (Aziz Ahmed) brother was still most wanted on the police website. The incidents took place four years before their release. General Aziz helped his brothers obtain fake passports and travel to Europe. The wealth they amassed was possible because their brother is the chief of Bangladesh army.”

Debate over Israel

The Al Jazeera documentary alleged that Bangladesh’s security force imported spyware from Israel. Foreign minister and Bangladeh army rejected the claim.

Army said the process to procure surveillance equipment for United Nations began before the tenure of General Aziz.

Asked why General Aziz’s name was brought out in the allegation, Will Thorne said, “The procurement process might have started earlier but we said the agreement was signed in 2018 after General Aziz took office.

“United Nations would never use such a controversial spyware for the missions in the first place and they will not let Bangladeshi peacekeepers use anything like that. It’s not a standard issue to use such a controversial technology for peacekeeping missions. The UN has raised questions about it and so did we.”

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